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Album Review

When Opeth released Heritage in 2011, they had completed the transformation from their death metal origins through progressive death metal in the early 2000s, to full-on prog rock that celebrated their love of Camel, Jethro Tull, ELP, and more. 2014's excellent Pale Communion furthered those notions as frontman and songwriter Mikael Åkerfeldt's own vision began to emerge. Sorceress is the third installment in this phase of the band's career, and while considerably different and more exploratory than its precursors, it also references Opeth's earlier efforts like Ghost Reveries and Blackwater Park, but goes further than either in its diversity.

Uncharacteristically, Åkerfeldt wrote the album quickly. He enlisted Tom Dalgety as co-producer (who also engineered and mixed) and Opeth recorded it in twelve days at Rockfield Studios in Wales. Sorceress is a madly assorted mixed bag. Åkerfeldt's inspirations this time out may still recall prog sources, but there are heavier ones, too: Black Sabbath and the Ritchie Blackmore/Jon Lord-era of Deep Purple. Opener "Persephone" has a brief nylon-string guitar sketch in waltz time that could have come from folk music antiquity. It gives way to the title track and first single. Joakim Svalberg's knotty organ riff dominates the opening moment before a crushing syncopated guitar riff joins in. This track somewhat recalls the Pale Communion sessions but is far more unhinged. The Geezer Butler-esque bassline and explosive kick drums make it the most accessible thing here — its instrumental section keeps it firmly in prog terrain, however. "The Wilde Flowers" is a truly wild melange of musical styles. It's simultaneously heavy, hard, and spacy, with B-3, bluesy and squalling metal guitar breaks, and chorale vocals that drift in the center, weighting it as a solidly prog track. The bludgeoning guitar riff, up-mixed, swinging drums, and punishing bassline in "Chrysalis" make it a highlight; it shines with Åkerfeldt's finest vocal performance on the album (he can be notoriously lazy). There are lovely acoustic tracks here, too, such as "Will O' the Wisp," which exists in the space between Pentangle's Basket of Light and Led Zeppelin III. "The Seventh Sojourn" melds East Indian drone with North African modalism and exotic hand percussion; strings and keyboards eclipse an oud-like guitar line. It eventually dissembles, wedding near classical polyphony to subdued pop. "Strange Brew" winds through Peter Gabriel-era Genesis-esque ponderousness before a bluesy guitar line ushers it into thundering King Crimson-esque prog adorned with proto-metal riffs and vamps. "A Fleeting Glance" is a dynamic, multifaceted jam showcasing Åkerfeldt's sophisticated melodic sensibilities while touching on musical terrain from Pink Floyd and Gentle Giant to post-Village Green-era Kinks! "Era" opens with a delicate piano intro but Opeth erupts a minute later in melodic aggression. Åkerfeldt's more confident and individualized songwriting on Sorceress takes it in some dizzying directions. While it goes further musically than their two previous outings, it contains enough of the past to exist in a space that carves out terrain somewhere between Watershed and Heritage. Brilliant.

Customer Reviews

What is this? It isn't opeth

Why is this musical collection called opeth? Upon listening to the entire album, I cannot answer this question. All I can definitively say is that it is a step backwards for the band, regardless of whether you like older opeth or newer more progressive opeth. Gone is the progressiveness of heritage and pale communion. Gone are the crunching rifts and beautiful complexity of my arms your hearse, still life, and ghost reveries. This album hurts my soul because they lost everything that made them opeth in my eyes. I loved pale communion and heritage. Granted, I didn't like them as much as their older works, but I didn't understand the hate those two albums were getting. They were still complex and beautiful, without the heavy metal/ death metal sound. This is what would result if you lost the will to produce great music. In my opinion, avoid, especially if you have yet to hear opeth's past work, any of it, including deliverance and damnation.

No Growls, No Problem

The first released Song Sorceress from their soon to be released album...Sorceress is going to be divisive. I'm on the side of liking this new sound and if the album is like this, itll be great. Yes the vocals on this song don't have the old Opeth growls but we will see if that is the case for the whole album. Either way, the music is still very pychedelic/Prog Rock sounding but there are some very crunching heavy guitar parts with amazing solos. I got this pre ordered already . Looking forward to it.

Absolutely Horrendous Mixing

I WANT to like it. I really do. But the thing is, I just can't hear it. The bass disappears into a muddled mess, with only the highest of the highs remaining even remotely audible. I'm sure it's good underneath that, and, as an Opeth fan, I look forward to hearing the rest of the album anyway. Let's put it this way: the album isn't even out yet, but it already needs a Steven WIlson remaster.


Formed: 1990 in Stockholm, Sweden

Genre: Rock

Years Active: '90s, '00s, '10s

Brought together in Stockholm by guitarists Peter Lindgren and Mikael Åkerfeldt in 1990, Opeth added progressive influences and acoustic instrumentation to their brand of Swedish death metal. As the group progressed, it was very common for an Opeth live set to fly in several different musical directions -- and an average song lasted no less than ten minutes. Impressed by their originality, Candlelight Records released their debut full-length in 1995, which was titled Orchid, and featured a rhythm...
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Sorceress, Opeth
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